Despite our late arrival in Jordan and my concern about finding accommodation for the night, I decided to make the 35km journey to Aqaba. I didn’t have any GPS maps of this country and could easily have lost my way, especially in the dark, but fortunately found the right route and arrived in Aqaba just after 12h00. Israel was virtually a stone’s throw away from Aqaba, but still beyond my reach. I saw house upon house, but strangely no shops or hotels. I eventually sought advice from a group of friends socialising outside, who explained that hotels and the like are not permitted in residential areas, offering to direct me to a hotel. I of course offered to pay the man for his services, but he just wished me a good time in his country. I sat back on my bike and had to laugh at myself, it’s a different world out here. Seeing the people orderly walking on the sidewalk I realised that this was no longer Africa, but the Middle-East, the city teemed with vehicles. I made my way to the hotel and negotiated a stay of two days. It was after 01h00 in the morning that I feasted on MacDonald’s and then sank into bed until late morning. I decided it would be a good time to replace the bike’s rear tyre, with the new one I brought all the way from South Africa. I gave the old tyre to the young man at the tyre store beside a garage, to his delight. The owner of the garage walked over for a chat and offered me a free bike wash, once I was done there. Jordanians, like the Sudanese, are extremely friendly and to think it is the only country in the Middle-East that is not riddled with conflict.
I walked the city from end to end and treated myself to dinner at a restaurant that evening. The next day I was on my way again and could kick myself for not going to Petra, a world heritage site, and the ancient city of Amman, Pella and so forth. I had the time, but I wanted to reach Syria as soon as possible, worried that it may be the end of my trip. There is so much to see in Jordan and I promised myself I would return one day. Motorbikes are also very popular here, Harley Davidsons not Africa Twins. One of my highlights was swimming in the Dead Sea. It is so salty that you simply float on its surface. I would not overnight here, but somewhere closer to Syria to be at the border as early as possible. This would be the only country in which I would not see the capital.
The good conditions of Jordanian roads made for a pleasant ride and I rode all the way to Mafrad, where I again struggled to find a hotel. I was told that the town did not have any hotels, but led to some rooms for rent. My bike would have to stand in the street, about which I wasn’t all that pleased, but was assured that it was safe. Fearing that I wouldn’t find my way back (I didn’t even know the name of the place) I didn’t want to go in search of food, hungry or not. Fortunately, Koos Bandjies had given me a can of meatballs in Zambia that I had lugged all the way here to eat close to the Syrian border. The next morning I found my bike right there where I left it, undamaged. Jordan would definitely see me again, it is a wonderful country.
On the way to the border the next morning I stopped at a road stall for a bite to eat and exchange money. Here no one warned me against entering Syria, just cautioned me to be very careful and head straight for Turkey. I crossed the Jordanian border without a hitch and then made my way to the Syrian side, with my stomach clenched with tension over my fate.